Yasir Shah snags 14 wickets in rout of New Zealand

Yasir Shah has entered the history books, becoming just the second Pakistani cricketer in history to take 14 wickets in a test match. He joins Imran Khan, who picked up 14/116 back in 1982, atop the table.

The dominant performance was punctuated by Yasir’s effort in New Zealand’s first innings, in which he snared an incredible 8/41. Included in this innings was a rare triple wicket maiden - the 28th over of the innings, which saw Yasir have Tom Latham caught at short leg first ball, Ross Taylor bowled on the third, and finally Henry Nicholls bowled on the fifth. His record-breaking effort saw the Kiwis bowled out for just 90, a huge 328 less than what Pakistan made, and unsurprisingly the visitors were asked to follow-on.

They made a bit of a better fist of their second innings, ultimately making 312 and managing to at least take a few runs from Yasir, but he still snared six wickets for 143 runs, leaving him with the total match figures of 57.2 overs, 14/184. He dismissed every New Zealand batsman at least once over the course of the match with the exception of Colin de Grandhomme, who fell victim to Hasan Ali in both innings.

The figures put Yasir at equal 21st on the list of best bowling figures in a match, with nine of the players ahead of him also having taken 14 wickets in a match, but for less runs. Those names include the likes of Rangana Herath, Anil Kumble, Michael Holding and as mentioned, Imran Khan. Seven more have taken 15 in a match, including Richard Hadlee and Harbhajan Singh, three have taken 16, one has taken 17, and Jim Laker sits atop the list for his 19/90 way back in 1956.

21st of all time might not seem jaw-droopingly impressive, but a deeper dive into the records reveals the magnitude of the achievement. Unlike batting records, which are dropping like flies as bats get bigger, grounds get smaller and pitches get flatter, many bowling records were achieved much earlier in the history of cricket. 

Of the 21 match figures better than Yasir’s, four took place in the 19th century, while another seven took place prior to 1960. In fact, the only figures to match Yasir’s this century are Rangana Herath’s identical 14/184, which he took against Pakistan in 2014, and Harbhajan Singh’s 15/217 against Australia in Chennai in 2001. 

With this in mind, suddenly the achievement becomes significantly more impressive. Perhaps making it even more so is the fact that Pakistan had managed 5/418 in the first innings, with New Zealand’s spin trio of Ajaz Patel, Ish Sodhi and Kane Williamson managing a combined 1/203. 

Though he has represented Pakistan for only five years, 32 year old Yasir is gradually forging a memorable career. He has now accumulated 195 wickets in his 32 matches at the impressive average of 28.23, and is demonstrating a tendency to get wickets in bunches. On 16 occasions he has claimed 5 wickets in an innings, while three times he has ten in a match. In this two match series against New Zealand he has claimed a huge 22 wickets, while late last year in Sri Lanka’s three match tour of the West Indies he managed 25, snaring at least eight per game.

His challenge now will be to perform against good teams in conditions which don’t suit him - typically a difficult proposition for spin bowlers in particularly. When Pakistan visited Australia and New Zealand in 2016/17 he managed only eight wickets in seven innings. In England earlier in 2016, he rolled through them for ten wickets in the first innings at Lords, but managed only nine more in three matches thereafter. 

His chance will come soon, with Pakistan set to tour South Africa in December and January. Never before has he played the South Africans, and though their batting lineup isn’t what it once was, it is still full of talent. South Africa, though home to some excellent pitches, is not prone prone to the dry, sandy turners prevalent throughout the sub-continent, and often in the UAE. 

It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to find holes in the leg spinner’s game. Last year, he claimed the eighth most wickets in the world with 43 - the six matches in which he achieved it, though, were at least four less than anyone above him. In 2018, a similar theme has emerged. His 30 wickets place him at 15th in the world this year, but he has played only four matches - the next best total for a player with as few matches is 20. 

With 195 test wickets, Yasir is rapidly closing in on the 200 wicket milestone, and barring a disastrous tour of South Africa, he should achieve it over there. Though not exactly an exclusive club, he will get there in pretty short time, and at only 32 years of age and performing a discipline which doesn’t require elite athleticism (looking at you, Shane Warne), there will likely be plenty more wickets to come.


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